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Top ministerial staffers to share burden of managing conflicts


Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s former chief of staff, David Barbagallo, has sparked integrity changes that will affect people carrying on that role

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The Crime and Corruption Commission investigated whether Barbagallo misused his position in order for Fortress Capstone, a company in which he was a shareholder and director, to benefit from $267,000 in state funding for a cruise shipping app.

While the CCC ultimately concluded there was no evidence that Barbagallo had misused his position to secure the funds, it was highly critical of the failure to properly manage his conflict of interest.

Barbagallo produced a staff declaration of interests form and stated that he had submitted it to the Premier. Palaszczuk said she sighted the form, but neither ensured it was signed by the Premier upon lodgement as required.

The CCC recommended the government introduce a requirement that such forms also be sighted, and read, by the staff member’s supervisor, who would sign the form as confirmation of receipt.

However, a new directive issued by the Department of Premier and Cabinet only requires the Chief of Staff to ensure the forms are signed by the relevant Premier or Minister. There is no mention of anyone having to confirm receipt of the form.

That shifts the blame for any failure to have the Premier or Minister sign a submitted form to the Chief of Staff, but is still vague on the timing. It is not clear whether in Barbagallo’s case that would have made him responsible for the lapse.

The directive will also require both the Chief of Staff and Premier or Minister to sign a conflict of interest management plan.

A Department of Premier and Cabinet spokeswoman said the new directive “reaffirms and enhances the obligations of Ministerial staff” and “includes enhancements to the process of declaring personal interests and conflicts of interests including the recording, storage and retention of any declarations”.

On Friday, a parliamentary committee raised with the CCC chairman, Alan MacSporran, another integrity issue that had already been dealt with: ministers using private emails for government business. It emerged Palaszczuk had two such email accounts, the contents of which, as they relate to government business, have since been archived.

At a Cross River Rail media conference today, Palaszczuk hit back at repeated questions on the issue, saying “if you want to talk about the past, let’s talk about the past, but I’m here to talk about the future”.

She has denied any wrong-doing but refused to detail the nature of the correspondence.

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